Nightwing never has an easy time of it in the Batbooks, but the last few months have been particularly brutal on Dick Grayson. And this week’s issue drops a pretty major bomb: A major figure from Dick’s past who was supposed to be dead is alive and well, and living it up in Chicago.
We got a chance to speak to Kyle Higgins, who’s been writing Nightwing for the New 52 since the book started, about where Dick goes from here and why he’s going, specifically, to Chicago.
Note: There will be spoilers for Nightwing #18 below. You’ve been warned!
Gamma Squad: How’d you first get involved with Nightwing?
Higgins: I was working on Deathstroke as part of the New 52, and an opportunity came up for the new Nightwing series. The editor knew how much I loved the character and the relationship I had with Scott Snyder, the fact that I had that was a benefit for Court of Owls helped. I started on the book and I’ve been on it ever since.
Gamma Squad: Nightwing’s move to Chicago is an interesting choice. What made Chicago the place to be?
Higgins: There are a couple of factors. There is a story reason, as reader will have seen by now. Tony Zucco is still alive and living under an alias somewhere in Chicago. That’s the motivating factor. Also, I’m from Chicago, so it’s a city I’m familiar with and has a lot of a history, and there hasn’t been a lot of exploration of it. I wanted to do something different, and Chicago is a distinct and unique city.
It’s definitely our version of Chicago, a stylized version, but at the same time there’s a lot of historical reference. We’re trying to make it feel the real American city that it is. For me, setting stories in a real city is always a plus, there’s a natural kind of relatability that something like that brings for readers, it really helps the verisimilitude, even with the crazy superhero action.
Gamma Squad: The book is also seeing a shift in artist to Brett Booth. How does changing artists affect your approach to the book?
Higgins: It is definitely different. Brett has different strengths than Eddy. It’s a different skill set, a different style. Brett’s stuff is very kinetic, a bit more stylized. Just being aware of what an artist does well is the first step, in my book. I’m writing for Brett, just like I was writing for Eddy. We talk every day, and Brett has written before, so we can break story ideas together, and he has a lot of ideas that I work to incorporate into the book.
Gamma Squad: How is being in Chicago, away from Gotham and Bruce’s resources there, going to affect Dick as a crimefighter?
Higgins: The money that Dick had burned up with Amusement Mile. He and Bruce aren’t in a place relationship-wise where Dick can look to him for anything, let alone money. He’ll have roommates. If the suit gets shredded, he has to fix it. The armory’s gone, and the pennies are definitely being counted.
Gamma Squad: Dick’s had his support system destroyed before, but this time around, it’s particularly brutal, with his faith in Bruce undermined and one of his key confidants dead. How’s that going to drive the book going forward?
Higgins: I want there to be a strong, motivating story reason to leave. I didn’t want it to just be as a result of his emotional state. I feel like we’ve seen that before, where things are bad in his life, so he changes locations. In this story, the idea is that all of these events have been happening over the last twelve issues were out of Dick’s control: His history being completely rewritten by the Court of the Owls, the Joker burning Amusment Mile to the ground, the death of Damien. Tony Zucco still being alive represents something Dick can deal with, can work to resolve. The appeal of regaining control in his life is very strong and alluring.
Gamma Squad: Looking ahead on your run, you’ve got some surprises in store beyond Dick moving out of Gotham, including a Superman villain thrown into the mix. Anything else you can hint at?
Higgins: There’s mythology in Chicago we’re going to be tapping into. There used to be masks, vigilantes and heroes in the city, but there haven’t been for several years. They’re all dead. The mystery behind what happened to them will be… important.
Nightwing #19 will arrive April 17th.